Finally! Academics Describe Their Research in Terms We Can Understand

A few weeks ago, The Chronicle Review published an essay by Steven Pinker that took academics to task for their incomprehensible writing.

“In writing badly,” wrote Mr. Pinker, “we are wasting each other’s time, sowing confusion and error, and turning our profession into a laughingstock.” The implication is that academese could use a grand stroke of simplification.

What follows, however, might be taking things a little far.

Researchers took to Twitter over the weekend to rally around the hashtag …


Report on Academic Fraud at Chapel Hill to Be Released on Wednesday

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is about to hear the results of the latest investigation into academic fraud involving athletes there. An independent investigator, Kenneth L. Wainstein, will release his report in a meeting with campus and system leaders on Wednesday.

The much-anticipated study is the third the university has sponsored to find out how bogus classes in which athletes enrolled in large numbers cropped up in the department of African and Afro-American studies. But this is the first of the three to involve cooperation from the two figures who so far have been blamed in the scandal: Julius E. Nyang’oro, the department’s former chairman, and Deborah Crowder, a former manager in the department.

Mr. Wainstein said in June that the investigators had interviewed more than 80 people and gathered more than 1.5 million documents.

A highly-anticipated report into the long standing academic fraud at UNC-Chapel Hill is scheduled to be released Wednesday at a special meeting of UNC officials, the university said Monday. The report is the result of eight months of interviews and records analysis by a group of attorneys led by Kenneth Wainstein, a former top U.S.

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U.S. Cancels Funds for Controversial Studies of Infectious Diseases

The White House announced on Friday that it would temporarily block federal financial support of controversial biomedical research in which scientists seek to learn about the potential dangers of infectious diseases by intentionally making them more hazardous, The New York Times reported.

The move, announced by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Health and Human Services, came just weeks after the Obama administration issued regulations permitting such research but requiring stricter federal oversight of it and active disclosure by scientists of the risks inherent in their work.

The Times quoted a White House statement attributing the moratorium to “recent biosafety incidents at federal research facilities,” a reference to mistakes this year by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention involving anthrax, bird-flu, and smallpox samples.

Critics of the research, who have said it could help terrorists or unscrupulous scientists unleash a lethal epidemic, hailed the White House move. The Times was unable to obtain comment from two scientists—Ron Fouchier of Erasmus University, in the Netherlands, and Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin at Madison—who claimed, in 2011, to have created a more easily transmitted strain of a type of bird flu. That discovery set off a controversy over the wisdom of such research, and whether it should be permitted, financed, or published, that continues to this day.

The moratorium is only on research on influenza virus and the coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS. It made no mention of Ebola or any related filovirus. Ebola is already extremely lethal, but it is not easily transmissible.

No scientist has publicly announced an attempt to make Ebola as easy to transmit with a sneeze as flu is. Given the current panic around Ebola, and congressional anger at federal health agencies, it is unlikely that federal funding for such a project would be given out.

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Supporters of U. of Oklahoma Band Sound Off in Ads Attacking President

Full-page advertisements that were published on Friday in major newspapers across Oklahoma and Texas accused the University of Oklahoma’s president, David Boren, and the director of its marching band of creating an “environment of mediocrity and complacency” in the band, and of clamping down on criticism, the Tulsa World reports. The ads, which feature anonymous comments by band members, single out for criticism a policy under which members can be kicked out if they say anything negative about the band.

One critic quoted by the World lamented a decline in “marching and musicality” in the band, whose size has dropped from 280 to 225 members. President Boren, in a written statement quoted by the World, declined to respond to “anonymous personal attacks” in the ads. “It’s a shame that people would waste their money on such ads,” he said, “instead of supporting scholarships for our students.”

Nick Nicholson, a former Pride member who lives in Houston, said Friday’s letter was penned by a group of band students. He helped raise money for the ads, which were placed in at least a half-dozen Oklahoma and Texas newspapers, including the World, The Oklahoman, The Norman Transcript, The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Close to $20,000 was spent on the ads in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Norman, alone, Nicholson said.

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Thai Historian Faces Complaint for Doubts About Ancient Elephant Battle

A leading Thai historian has been accused of defaming the monarchy—a serious charge in Thailand—over his skepticism about whether a 16th-century duel between a Thai king and an invading Burmese general, both mounted on elephants, actually took place as it has long been portrayed in textbooks and movies, reports Khaosod English, an English-language website of a Thai newspaper.

The accusation of defamation, known as lèse majesté, was made by a group of ultra-royalists against Sulak Sivaraksa, who is 82, based on his remarks this month at a Thammasat University seminar. If officially charged and convicted, the historian could face up to 15 years in prison.

In official Thai histories, the king is said to have killed the general in the elephantine encounter, persuading the Burmese army to retreat.

Lt.Gen. Padung Niwetsuwan, a member of the group, said the 82-year-old writer insulted the Thai monarchy by questioning the accomplishments of King Naresuan, who ruled ancient Thailand – known then as Ayutthaya Kingdom – between 1590 and 1605.

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Parties Turn Violent Near 2 Campuses, and the Colleges’ Leaders Promise Sanctions

Celebrations in two college towns turned violent over the weekend, and the presidents of both institutions said that any students found to have participated in the riots could face serious consequences, including expulsion.

In Keene, N.H., the chaos began on Saturday afternoon near the campus of Keene State College when several people were injured by thrown bottles during the city’s annual Pumpkin Festival, The Boston Globe reported. On Saturday night crowds spread across the town, and video sho…


Alumnus Adds $69-Million to Previous Gifts to U. of Hawaii, for $100-Million Total

A University of Hawaii alumnus has added $69-million to his previous gifts to the university and its flagship campus’s Shidler College of Business, bringing his total donations to $100-million, the university has announced. The business college had been named for the donor, the investor and philanthropist Jay H. Shidler, in 2006 after his first gift, of $25-million.

Mr. Shidler is the founder and managing partner of the Shidler Group, an investment firm focused on commercial real estate, accordi…


Australian University Suspends Poetry Professor for Racist Emails

Australia’s University of Sydney has suspended a professor for racially offensive emails he sent, the BBC News reports. The university suspended Barry Spurr, a poetry professor, for referring to Aboriginal people as “human rubbish tips” in emails, among other slurs against whole races as well as individuals.

Mr. Spurr has defended the emails as part of a “whimsical linguistic game,” but students are calling for him to be fired. The university released a statement that said, in part: “Racist, sexist, or offensive language is not tolerated at the University of Sydney.”

The University of Sydney has suspended a professor and government education adviser for sending racist emails. Prof Barry Spurr referred to Aboriginal people as “human rubbish tips” and used racist terms to refer to Muslims and Asians in Australia. The poetry professor said the emails were part of a “whimsical” game, but students are demanding his dismissal.

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College Brings Opportunity, but Paying for It Offers Challenges, Fed Chair Says

Higher education is one of the “cornerstones” of economic opportunity, Janet L. Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve Board, said on Friday in an unusual and closely watched speech about growing inequality. But her remarks, given at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, did not cast higher education’s role in an entirely favorable light.

The earnings premium of a college degree has grown, Ms. Yellen said in her prepared remarks, and the “net returns for a degree are high enough that college still o…


Harvard Cafeteria Worker Wins $10-Million With Lottery Ticket

A longtime cafeteria worker at Harvard University won $10-million with a lottery ticket last Friday, but she says she’ll keep her job, The Harvard Crimson reports. Ana Rodriguez purchased, for $20, a scratch ticket for the “$10,000,000 Diamond Millionaire” contest at a Dollar Variety store in Everett, Mass.

Ms. Rodriguez estimated to the Crimson that she had spent $10,000 on lottery tickets during the past few years. She also said she planned to keep her job for two years in order to receive benefits and “keep [her] head level.” She will use the winnings to support her family, she said.

“Like most struggling people who win, I got lucky. Hopefully I will use it for good,” Ms. Rodriguez told the newspaper.

Quincy House dining hall staff member Ana Rodriguez was going about her normal routine before work last Friday morning when she decided to stop into Dollar Variety in nearby Everett, Mass. to buy lottery tickets.

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